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Proctor's Garden: Avoid common gardening mistakes

Beautiful gardens are the perfect addition to your yard. Rob Proctor shares advice on avoiding common mistakes when gardening.

COLORADO, USA — Gardening is a series of adventures. Some turn out well; others go horribly wrong. Here's some advice to avoid making mistakes.

Let's start with a simple one. Hang your baskets at eye level. Use chain or wire to lower them. Otherwise you're staring at the bottom of the pot rather than the plants growing in it.

Don't limb up evergreens. It looks terrible and it also makes them top-heavy and more susceptible to toppling in high winds. 

Crushed eggshells don't deter slugs. If the shells don't cut your fingers, they're not going to bother slugs. Use slug bait or the old beer-in-a-saucer trick. Don't bother to compost eggshells. It takes a very, very long time for them to break down to the point where the calcium is available to plant roots. And in our calcium-rich soils, we don't even need it. 

Bark mulch is a mistake. Have you ever seen a successful bark mulch project? It all looks neat and tidy at first. Dust and weed seeds blow in and you end up with more weeds than you're originally trying to suppress. Mulching is fine to conserve water and suppress weeds but bark isn't a suitable material for mulching. Use compost instead, which is actually beneficial to the soil. 

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Bark over plastic or landscape fabric is even worse. This renders the soil below as lifeless and devoid of earthworms. dust and seeds will blow in and this makes weed sprouting even easier. 

Gravel mulch spread over a "weed barrier" is worse yet, especially under trees. The rocks absorb heat and raise the temperature and lower the humidity. People who do this so they can water their trees less often end up with dead trees.

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Avoid planting inappropriate plants for our climate. It's fun to experiment with different and exotic perennials or annuals. If they don't work, you're not out a substantial sum of money. But three trees are widely planted and are mistakes. Aspen, river birch and arborvitae are just not suitable for the Front Range metro areas. It's too hot and dry here. They will die slow, lingering deaths--except for the arborvitae, which usually die each winter. 

Don't forget to visit Proctor's Garden on Open Day Sundays. Just show up from 8 to noon at 3030 West 46th Avenue, Denver. Your $10 suggested donation benefits Dumb Friends League. 

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